In today’s world it is getting tougher to recruit and train volunteer firefighters. Many people are working several jobs in order to live comfortably or simply to make ends meet. This financial strain is also felt by many volunteer fire departments around the state and around the country. By using resources and equipment already available in a firehouse drill nights don’t have to become boring or not beneficial. Training our members is something that is often over looked; even the simplest of exercises can greatly benefit a member and in turn the overall department.
When working with personal protective equipment one of the most basic exercises is having members don and doff the entire ensemble of equipment including turnout gear and the self-contained breathing apparatus. This is a great exercise that may be implemented at the start of every drill night in a similar manner that sports teams “run a lap” and stretch out. By working on the most fundamental component of firefighting, it may better produce results in the long run of other complex training. The “SCBA Scramble” is an exercise that tests the awareness and ability of members to untangle and equip themselves with an SCBA while being unable to see. The SCBA is taken apart and tied up with other SCBA harnesses. Then a firefighter crawls to the pile of equipment and is required to untangle a harness and get on air as soon as possible. This may be a timed exercise and depending on the department variations may be implemented.
Using the ground ladders that are on the rigs are also great obstacles for an evening full of training. Another fundamental exercise is simply setting up and climbing a ladder to gain access to a roof. This basic exercise is incredibly important because it allows members to become aware of their reactions on a ladder as well as the motions of laddering operations to become second nature. A ground ladder placed on its side may be also used as a tight area where members have to modify their approach to a low profile in order to get through the area. This basic exercise may be used as a stepping-stone to learn and develop certain firefighter safety and survival tactics.
One of the most beneficial and free exercises is simply deploying and operating hose lines. It may seem to be a redundant exercise however it may be the most important skill that all firefighters must be proficient in. If water doesn’t get on the fire then we might as well just close our doors and go home. The best way to mitigate any fire incident is to put the fire out because that will help mitigate every other tactic that must be completed to have a successful outcome. You can make this exercise a skills competition between members to evaluate a variety of components including deployment, time to operation, and accuracy. You can add targets such as a ball on a cone to simulate flow projection under different pressure conditions.
At the end of it all firefighting is a team sport. So when the department wants to develop communication and teamwork among the membership you can go and play any sport together including soccer, ice hockey, softball, and many more. Initially it may seem that a sport may have nothing to do with firefighting when it may have the most compared to specific tactical exercises. The more we develop our team building skills the more we may develop our abilities to work together. If someone can have a great experience on the field then the same may have a higher potential to be experience on the scene of an incident. There are many other ways to train for free or on a tiny budget. It starts with one person trying or reading something a new way of training. That idea may spark a something and lead to a trend of consistent training within your department.